Xavier eked out a one-point win over Georgetown in men’s hoops last night. The key play on the court was a last-minute dunk by freshman Dailyn Swain.

The key play off the court happened at halftime, when dozens of… ahem, “mature” Xavier alums gathered to toast our dear friend Ned, who passed away in October.

Ned’s wife Felicity and their daughter Grace (front row, 2nd from left and left in the photo above) joined us. Yesterday would’ve been Ned’s 60th birthday, so it was a difficult day for them emotionally.

But I know they felt the love and affection from all of us gathered there to pay tribute to a wonderful human being. “All of us” being: LJ and Patty, Maynard and Teresa, Art and Sheila, Phil and Suzanne, Tom, Lisa, Maria, Drew and Lyn, Phil and Jenny, Jack and Sherri, Joyce, Chrissy, Eddie, Jimmy, Joe and LeAnn, Amy, Jill, Jackie and Mike, Lynne, Mike, Doug, yours truly, and some others I’m surely forgetting due to my… ahem, “maturity.”

We met at a bar in the upper corner of Xavier’s arena. The actual bar was taken from a longtime student hangout near campus called The Norwood Café (or “The Woods” in our parlance).

We spent countless hours at that bar with Ned some forty-odd years ago, so it was a very fitting spot for our gathering.

Those who couldn’t make it in person joined us in spirit in our toast, from all over the country.

I made a photo collage poster and we hung it on the wall near the bar… so many great memories with a guy who always made us smile.

I just read a Chuck Klosterman essay where he wrote that it’s irrational to think that just watching a game will have any impact on the outcome. But still we, the fans, believe it to be so.

Last night, we all left the arena smiling. And those of us who are Ned fans truly believe that he had a hand in making that happen.

It was Ned’s birthday, but we’re the ones who got the presents. Sure, the Xavier win was great, but the better gifts were the chance to gather, the hugs, the laughs, the smiles. Ned’s not here, but he’s still helping us win in the game of life.